Picademy – The Raspberry Pi Academy

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It’s been almost a week since the Picademy began, and for me I suppose it held a different meaning to the majority of teachers that attended. I’ve had a Pi since day 1 when I was frantically clicking just like everyone else to get hold of one. Again, like most, I plugged it in, thought “Kewl!” And then it sat there for maybe a month or so until I cracked to open to have a real go at what it could do. For me, being a child who coded back in the 80’s and spent most of my young life on Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and the like, one of the first things I got it doing was retro gaming, this provided a spark of interest amongst the children in my school, most of which had never heard of the likes of Frogger! I digress, back to Picademy!
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As a lead teacher at Picademy, I was invited because of the success I have had in integrating the Pi into the Tech-Dojo events I have organised at Ysgol Bryn Elian and for some of the innovative tasks I have had children complete using Scratch.
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So bright and early on Monday 14th April 2014, we all waited in anticipation of what lay ahead. The agenda for the day was absolutely jam-packed, and rightly so. So much to cram in that was fun, relevant, useful, and had a deep learning outcome. We played with the PiCamera initially, something I’d yet to have a go with, I’ve got to say, the libraries of software that comes with this is impressive, with lots to do and learn along the way. It was at this point that my focus in Picademy took hold.

I was completely immersed in watching how teachers learn.

They obviously learn in the same way children do, and face the same issues children do, and experience the same things children do. Fear of embarrassment, exploration, discovery, awe, wonder, intrigue, sense of achievement, but then teachers have that extra facet to their learning, application. The conversations throughout the tasks often centred around where the best learning outcome was in the task for children. Of course there were many. Creativity, coding, and problem solving to mention a few.
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Working with another Wales based colleague I guided him through coding in Python where we encountered syntax errors and then shared the joy when we were successful.

We then moved on to physical computing and experimenting with the GPIO pins on the Pi, coding traffic lights. A task I’d already completed with my Year 7 class using Scratch last term. Again, seeing how teachers tackled this was really intriguing. Here we were, only two sessions in and complete novices were confidently plugging in hardware.
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This was a completely new experience for most of the teachers, but one which they all found a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. I heard lots of of people burst out with “Yes!” a few times when it worked as they wanted it to.
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Next up was Minecraft, the tasks provided by Craig Richardson were absolutely brilliant and allowed all to code Minecraft using Python. Dave Honess couldn’t overstate just how much children love Minecraft and that by using this as a hook, once again, deep learning could take place. If you haven’t seen the Minecraft work by Craig before, it is seriously top drawer and well worth a peek! You’re children will love it!
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What followed in the afternoon was a session using @SamAaron‘s Sonic Pi. Sam is one of the most inspirational, motivated coders with an absolute passion for what he does it was a pleasure to be in his company. He provided a session on Sonic Pi before everyone got coding music. It all went a bit disco/90’s rave by the end of it, but some great music was being coded across the room.
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The second day began with talks from Eben Upton, Matt Manning, and Sam Aaron, before a day of hacking and making got underway. Lots of great projects took shape and teachers were busy playing with components, LED’s, PiCameras, and breakout boards. There was a real buzz in the air as everyone started hacking their projects.
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Here is a video of our bullet-Time Babbage project, unfortunately, not the desired matrix style as we ran out of time, but not forgetting, the production as well as the filming of the video was all done on a Raspberry Pi!

For the Foundation, it’s vitally important that the whole Education arm is sustainable, particularly as far as educational resources are concerned. For that reason, we enjoyed a session on GitHub from Ben Nuttall about how best to go about documenting lesson plans and schemes of work. Lincoln even made an appearance here which he was very pleased with.
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The event was wrapped up by Carrie Anne Philbin who did a superb job in putting this quality CPD together. Attendees shared their experiences of the two days before eagerly heading off on their individual journeys to a life of Pi.

For me personally, I look forward to mirroring the success of this event when I take Picademy to the teachers of North Wales this summer. One thing is for sure as far as the Foundations core aims are concerned building and getting the Pi to where it is now was the first part of the job, now, it’s up to educationalists alike to populate a wealth of resources to really take the movement forward so that computer science can once again become commonplace amongst our young learners.

Look out for more Picademy events in the future!

Make an Intruder Alarm with a Raspberry Pi and a Pibrella

In this post we are going to have a look at how we might go about making an intruder alarm using a Raspberry Pi and the Pibrella add-on board.

You will need a Raspberry Pi and a Pibrella board connected directly or via a ribbon cable, IMPORTANT: don’t push too hard, get the pins lined up and push steadily and firmly.

Pibrella Connected

Firstly, you need to open Python (IDLE) on the Raspberry Pi.
IDLE.fw

Then click File > Open > alarm.py
NewWindow.fw

In this Python window, we are going to program a working intruder alarm using the code from the master file below.
Code.fw

Make sure  the code looks exactly as shown, the smallest of mistakes will cause your code not to run or give unexpected results.

SAVE your file as alarm

Now you need to wire up the alarm so that we have a working ‘live’ circuit.

Using the jumper wire provided, connect both the ‘A’ terminals together. This will act as our door or window contact.
Jumper Cable

When you have saved the file and wired the contacts, open LX Terminal from the desktop, when the terminal opens type:

sudo python alarm.py then press ENTER

sudo allows us to run commands as a super user so we can have access to the GPIO pins, python tells the system to run the next file in the python environment and alarm.py is the file that should be opened.

Sudo.fw

Your intruder alarm is now active, to test it works, remove one end of the wires from the contact, your lights should flash and the alarm should go off, like in the video below. If it doesn’t work, your code may have an error which will need to be found and fixed, more debugging!

To reset the alarm, simply press the button.

WHAT NEXT?

You could try and modify the code so that the alarm is intermittent
– Then you could try to change thecode further by altering the frequency of the buzzer to make it a two tone alarm (tip: use different values in the brackets of the buzz command)

Using the Pibrella board with a Raspberry Pi you can control lots of other devices like PIR sensors, control motors, and lots more.

Intruder alarm code taken from http://www.pibrella.com.

Digital Leaders at iNet Wales National Conference

The Digital Leaders from Ysgol Bryn Elian presented their achievements to date at the iNet Wales National Conference on Thursday 6th October 2011. Not before a first class trip on the train to Cardiff where the event was held.

The three young leaders and I gave a presentation at the conference to teachers from across Wales on how the Digital Leaders programme was progressing including how it started and what has been involved. They discussed their work on E-safety, the VLE and an insight into Ysgol Bryn Elian’s new 3D technology.

A video of my youngest Digital Leader (my son Lincoln aged 2 confidently using an iPad) helped pose the question “When does Digital Literacy begin?”

After a few questions at the end, the leaders were interviewed by another school on what they had achieved, then it was back to the train station to rush back to school as they were also representing the Ysgol Bryn Elian at our annual open evening.

As a teacher of ICT it’s great to have such a dedicated group of youngsters who really want to make a difference in their school. The three representatives along with the rest of the YBE Digital Leaders worked tirelessly during our open evening to showcase the 3D technology and the new Augmented Reality resources available for 10 subjects. They were presenting to parents with such confidence they made me very proud.

I look forward to continue working with these dedicated pupils for a long time to come.

Well done guys, you ALL did a fantastic job!!!

Computer Science comes home!

Today was the day we were told what we knew was coming. ICT lessons had become boring, pupils were not as engaged as they might be and the move towards more computer science based lessons is on the horizon. Thankfully, I was in the crows nest with a telescope some time ago and saw this coming. For a while now I’ve been using Scratch and teaching a little HTML and JavaScript. 

In my opinion, qualifications such as the OCR national had become a qualification for the school rather than the individual. Trudging through MS office for years to get the equivalent of a million GCSE’s seems a little pointless and hardly preparing our children for what lies ahead. Who knows what the technological landscape will look like by the time the enter employment. The likes of the OCR National sit well with those comfortable in teaching “what they know” with little requirement to spread your wings further than a 4 bit binary number!

Here in Wales, we are fortunate to have time on our side in that we don’t have to run with this for some time, however my feeling is why delay it? Let’s do it now, embrace it, get brilliant at it and most of all enjoy it. It’s the curriculum I’ve been dreaming of anyway so for once I get to open my presents BEFORE Christmas.

Today took me back to 1987 where I was a 14 year old nagging my parents for the brand new Spectrum +3. Thankfully they heard my plea and I was furnished with one for Christmas. On that epic first computer of mine I learned to code in BASIC. I spent hours typing code to see an array of beautiful graphics displayed on the screen. I went on eventually to develop a Football simulation game and a fruit machine game, both of which I submitted to Future Publishing for them to include on the cassettes on the front of their Spectrum magazine.

Now, at 38 years of age, I’m learning to code in Python, a language I dabbled with when working for a software house in Bangor shortly after completing my Computer Science degree at University in 2005. I aim to be teaching this to a group of MAT pupils this year and then to Year 7’s starting September 2012.

I’ve often lamented about the work of Alan Turing, particularly when working on my own Artificial Intelligence project making a Tutorbot, looking at his famous Turing Test, today, he would be a very happy man indeed. The field he excelled in has been put centre stage for ICT teachers across the country to grab with both hands, never before have we had so much freedom to develop a curriculum suitable for the requirements of the future. So long as we make the right choices through careful decision making during curriculum redesign I feel excited about the future. I’m excited to be teaching a subject I have passion for. I am now a teacher of Computer Science and ict (small ict).

The only ones that should be scared are the ones who are too comfy to move with the times, my advice, we are moving without you. Our children deserve it, the success of our future requires it.

Let’s get out our coding manuals, Computer Science is coming home!

Had I known, I would have stuck reindeer on the front of my car!

The term was almost over, almost without any great discomfort. Mary had almost finished classes and we were looking forward to spending time together for Christmas. All we had to do was get through Friday and Saturday and we were home and dry. I set off promptly to school on Friday as I needed to stop for fuel, after filling up at the garage I text Mary to say it had snowed a little so go careful. Within 3 minutes of me sending that text, I’d spun around on black ice on the Rhuddlan flyover and crashed my car. What are the chances?


Thankfully, I wasn’t at fault. Just before my spin on the ice I noticed a crash on the side of the road, and two minutes AFTER my crash, another car entered a spin not dissimilar to mine and crashed into a BMW 10ft away from where I did.


As I made the call to my wife to now say go REALLY careful, I was passed by two fire engines, an ambulance and two police cars, a little further down the road a car had spun and landed on its roof. What had happened? Were we in a scene from casualty and didn’t realise it? Or we’re we all just being stupid on the same day? The answer to these questions is no.


The problem was that despite numerous warnings of bad weather, and a 25% increase in salt/grit, the council in its infinite money grabbing, tight-arsed wisdom decided to save the salt for a colder day. The result, the worst black ice I have ever encountered on a road that I’ve been driving on for over ten years! This could all have been avoided had the gritters put a shift in the night before. The good news is no one was hurt. My car has seen better days but it’s drivable with just an unsightly dent in the door. I dread to think what could have happened in different circumstances with a different mix of vehicles.


I got to school in time to see the end of morning registration, and a fun last day was had by all, especially the chocolate consuming pupils. A few hours later I made “the call” to the insurance company, with a bit of luck the weather and no grit combo as well as the fact that there were 4 other crashes within 15 minutes will ensure I don’t get tagged as the guilty party.


The rest of the weekend panned out pretty much as planned and we can now begin to enjoy the run up to Christmas with a very excited little boy. And if anyone wants to stick a new car under my tree I won’t complain 😉


Merry Christmas everyone, that’s probably all from me for 2011 so Happy New Year, stay safe and have fun!

Cloud Based Solutions at Ysgol Bryn Elian

I’ve had quite a few enquiries about what we are doing at YBE ‘cloud-wise’ so I thought i’d bung it all in a blog post for you to read.

I implemented Dropbox for a few reasons, firstly, to allow pupils to put work in a central location where they can access it whenever they want to. By sharing their folder with me, I have access to their work that I too can assess wherever I have an Internet connection, with Dropbox on iPad it makes it even easier. Another big factor in implementing Dropbox is the savings that can be made on toner/paper etc, we were wasting huge amounts of paper in constantly reprinting work that needed to be improved. In addition to this pupils were also stood at the printer for large periods of time waiting for work. Since its arrival, I am finding I am getting a much more regular submission of work from the majority of pupils. The admin side of things behind utilising Dropbox is taking a little longer but the results pupil wise are worth the increased efforts.

Taking Dropbox further, if some pupils haven’t set up an account eg Year 8, they can still send work to my dropbox by using a site called www.dropitto.me with this you give pupils a URL, mine is www.dropitto.me/ahd a password, and they can upload a file to my Dropbox account. Lastly, we are using the widely publicised live@edu for our email solution which also incorporates office online and sky drive storage for all pupils with the potential for use in all subjects as dropbox may be too much for the majority of faculties.

Last year we were using google email but found their relentless security a real bind in school and were having huge issues getting new users on the system. The system was easy to use but Googles constant need to enter captcha codes was a nightmare.

All in all the system is working very well now, as I said, it requires more admin effort on my part keeping their mark sheets in order class wide but as a bi-product I feel much more organised so it’s totally worth it.

Hope this sheds a little more light on it for you and I’d be glad to assist further should any of you need more advice on it.

This is also an interesting article re cloud computing.

YBE Digital Leaders

The YBE Digital Leaders Programme is looking for enthusiastic young people who like technology and would like to share what they know with others. The Digital Leaders Programme is aimed at young people who want to make a difference in their school and who would be willing to help those not so technologically minded. In some cases this may even be your teachers!!

You may or may not realise it, but you have grown up using technology from a very early age, to you it’s second nature. Adding a video to a powerpoint is child’s play to you. You are armed with a very special set of skills that some people older than you may not possess.

There are a small number of places available for those that are interested, you will be fully trained in the area of your choice.

The following roles are available:

•VLE Champion
•Digital Journalist
•Teacher Trainer
•Social Media/E-Safety Consultant

As a Digital Leader you will be expected to take an active role in improving the use of technology in our school, it will involve meeting after school on a weekly basis to discuss what we are currently working on. If you would like more information on what the role of a Digital Leader involves, see Mr Heard in ICT03.

If you would like to become a Digital Leader, you need to apply in any digital format stating why you should be a Digital Leader, you could create an animation, a podcast, a graphic or a webpage, or you may simply email. You also need to indicate what role you are interested in. Whatever you do this should be emailed to Mr Heard at ahd@brynelian.conwy.sch.uk

 

Augmented Reality

For the past two weeks I’ve been doing some research, quietly in the background, along with the school technician (who I am sure will kill me if I ask him to unlock or download anything else!), looking for new and exciting ways of delivering lesson content to engage my pupils and further deepen their learning experiences. Since returning from the new technologies conference earlier this month I have been energised into looking for and developing new stuff in school.

We saw the introduction of QR codes for homework, which I’ve since developed (not yet launched) using MS Tags. I have a really fun activity planned for this but I’d better not say too much on that front yet as there are a few gates to open before I can successfully roll that one out. Then I got playing with AR (Augmented Reality). For those that don’t know what it is, heres a brief rundown. Imagine you point your webcam at a pre determined image (called a marker), the software would then recognise the image and display the augmented content linked to it on your screen in place of the image. To further illustrate the point I have put a video below for you to see. I am holding a marker with ZB on it, the system recognises this and displays the AR material I have made. Kinda cool, VERY cool in fact!

So, looking forward, I’m going to be showcasing a bit of this tomorrow to some senior staff at school to see what they think, and hopefully I will be able to do lots of training with those that are interested and get AR in more lessons.

Any questions on AR, leave a reply, I think I’ve learnt enough this week to be able to impart some wisdom on others to some degree!
😉

New look blog!

In recent weeks, blogging has caused me some  significant stress. Mainly in the form of using Blogger with my students who already have a Googlemail account as we utilise this system at school. Unfortunately Google were asking for a phone number to verify student accounts. As students are encouraged not to enter personal details in anything on the Internet, we had some issues.

To top it off, Blogger messed me around as you know from an earlier post, so I decided to take the WordPress plunge. Its been in my head for some time now but finding time to sort it all out is not easy. Then half term arrived.

So as you can see it’s a little bit different around here, thanks to a good friend who hooked me up with some tidy hosting and a source for a theme, a lot of the pain was taken out of the process.

For pupils reading this, you will still find various homeworks on here from time to time, as well as on the school VLE (link at bottom of the page!) For my web design students you will also see I have added a nice accessibility feature at the bottom, to translate the site into many languages. Accessibility is one of those topics that has plagued us lately and this should iron out some of the issues.

Aside from using it as a teaching resource, I can also exhibit my photography. Hopefully I will get a lot more done this year than last year now Lincoln is a little older. I plan to go out a little at Easter wth Lincoln and Mary, and a lot in summer, so I am anticipating that I will be able to share some nice work.

Right now i’m thinking about going back to school tomorrow, looking forward to the remainder of the year (the business end of the academic year), its like the run up to the end of the football season. Lot’s to do and lot’s of pupils to “gee up” to get thier coursework finished.

I’ve just remembered a really funny story that I will have to share with you in the near future, I should have blogged it last week but have been busy.

Watch this space,.